I recently said it was “Easy for me to share” what would’ve been a more accurate statement is, I’ve learned it is “Easier for me to share than most”. It takes a lot of vulnerability for me to share and a lot of bravery. Vulnerability was not my strong suit ever, until it became my way of healing.
I recently came across something on Facebook that made me very sad. Months after something made me tremendously sad.
At my second job in news, I was sexually harassed by a coworker. Who was also one of my bosses, who also started out as a friend.
The first time we spent time outside of work he opened up to me about how he wanted still to make his parents proud (this was odd to me at the time coming from a much older man) but I feel for people, and it endeared me to him that he would be so open and so childlike. He shared so much, and told me he had never shared that much with anyone. It was also surprising coming from a man who by all other appearances seemed to not give an f what people thought. He was in charge, he thought he was great. So I felt I got to know the person part of him. We became what I thought was friends. Which I would often remind him we were when he would make comments on advancements toward anything but friendship.
He seemed fine with this for awhile. He would ask me to run to get dinner with him through one of the drive thrus and I really just thought we enjoyed each other’s company. We made each other laugh. His crassness about other things made me laugh at him.
Until it became directed at me.. in a sexual manner. His side comments that were sexual harassment I would later realize.. I would just brush off as his crassness and frankly, and unfortunately, like most women, I was used to, and equipped to know how to ward them off in a way that would keep his anger at bay.
At one point early on he said to me “You know if you slept with me I couldn’t get you the anchor position”. I found this tragically funny. Not funny really but I don’t know how else to describe something so absurd. He didn’t know me well yet, but Jesus, for someone to say this to me, I thought it was ridiculous.
I said “First of all, I don’t intend to get where I’m going by doing that! And if I were that type of person I sure wouldn’t do it for a job at a station this small” (making light of the fact that I find it appalling that anyone would do that in the first place, and if I were that way, I’d at least aim high. I would NEVER) “Also, I’m not going to sleep with you”.
He seemed taken aback by that revelation. Possibly all of that revelation.
From then on we worked together everyday, everyone put up with his off jokes, the only person at the time putting up with his really off statements was me.
During this time my current husband and I had formed a friendship and were starting to fall in love.
During that time, the harasser seemed to get more and more agitated toward me, and the advances became more and more vulgar.
We used a system in news on the computer called top lining, it is where an instant message dings up at the top of your screen for communication about breaking news, etc.. I started to get messages while working saying things like wanna come over and watch the late show and f.
I stopped knowing how to respond anymore, it was not anything I could respond to anymore, it became relentless. The behavior toward me when I wouldn’t respond would be to tell my boss I was not doing my job well. One example was to say I had totally missed putting an important story into the newscast, and I was called to the bosses office, reprimanded, then I pointed out it was in fact in the show. I was doing a great job at my job, I was being harassed.
It got to the point where someone I worked with pointed out that it was sexual harassment. I did not have a title for what he was doing to me, sadly, it felt like part of the program we’re used to before the brave women spoke up and gave it a name ME TOO.
The right thing to do would be to report this. So I did. I was met with questioning and disbelief. And then basically it was swept under the rug. Then it just became miserable for me to work there, so immediately I applied at another station in the area. These people I worked with had become my family, and now it was all different. I had bills to pay and I saw my only option was to move on. It wasn’t going to get any better with him. And he wasn’t going to be fired.
When I applied to the other station, I heard him maniacally laughing behind me where he sat. He called my other boss over and was laughing that the News Director of the other station reached out to him for a reference for me..he said… “What should I say HA HA!” so the harassment continued.
I can’t really to this day even describe what that did to me at the time. In short, it blew up my whole world. You spend so much time with the crew, these people were my family and best friends away from home. It took everything away. And to have to sit there until I found another position.. well I’m sure you could imagine.
I also did not tell the other News Director (for the new position) what this man had done to me, you know, they ask why you’re leaving, especially to another station in the same city. Thankfully he asked other people in this business who gave me awesome reviews and I got the position.
I did not tell anyone who didn’t already know, about what he had done or why I left. Everyone knew him. I protected him. Classic. And I did not press charges because I didn’t see it going anywhere but to victimize me again. In a city where he was the press.
I also know my limits. And I knew I wouldn’t survive it. I was already on my last thread trying to move on.
I found out after I left, they required everyone to do a sexual harassment course and he was laughing about how stupid it was and why did they have to do it.
I also found out he began harassing at least 2 other women, one who also left the station because of it.
That’s when I felt horrible I hadn’t pressed charges, if I could’ve saved them from that I thought. That still makes me feel badly.
Which is why I am speaking out today. Because I can’t figure out how else to get peace from this current thing….
This all occurred a long time ago.
In the meantime, my friends from that station came back (for awhile some wouldn’t talk to me for fear of repercussions for their job).
One of them was my dearest friend. It had hurt me immensely, I saw him on a live shot once when I was coming out of the store and he said he couldn’t be seen talking to me.
When I got my next job in another city, he apologized and we began talking again. I considered him my very best friend in the deepest way.
Later he would go on to post how he would do anything to support the ME TOO movement and he would privately tell me he would forever regret not having stood up and said more for me.
Months ago he thanked me in his acceptance speech at the Emmys by the nickname he had given me, and then he thanked by name….. the man who sexually harassed me.
That’s right, that man went on to work for years and years in the business, I would hear at all stations.. with the same behavior toward women. And my best friend got up there and thanked him in his acceptance speech.
For me, it was my husband’s special night. He was winning an Emmy. And I had to sit there and not only watch the man who had done this accept awards, but the icing was when this person I held so dear, threw out all things he had said and known, to thank this man in his speech.
I held my composure for my husband. So hurt I didn’t know what to do about my “friend”. And went on to try and enjoy this moment for my true best friend, my husband.
I would later text that friend and ask him why.
I’ve found asking why doesn’t get you anywhere with people who know they’ve done the inexplicable. Which is also why I’m writing this…. instead of asking why.
I ended that friendship.
The other day I saw the harasser retired, I saw it because one of my friends had posted a tribute to him and used the word integrity to describe him…. ummmm… this person knew directly what he had done. I thought she had learned. That’s right, She. And she has daughters. How on earth could you do that, especially knowing it could be your daughter someday.
And then I saw 2 of my other friends (who also knew of what he had done) clicked like on the post.
Not sure what to do with that. So unsure that it has saddened me for too long. And the only thing I can figure will bring me some peace is to write this.
To write this because maybe they forgot. To write this because the answer to “why?” wouldn’t bring me any peace either. To write this so maybe they’ll see how hurtful any support of someone like that is, that maybe they just didn’t realize how damaging that is not just to me, but every woman it’s happened to, and how damaging it is to further the culture of it “not being a big deal” is to the future climate for their daughters.
I write so your daughters don’t have to feel that. I think fondly of 2 of these people, one I consider very dear to me. I think in her case it was a slip of thought. I don’t think I’m the first thing on peoples’ minds, they too had history with this person, but I guess you forgot that in supporting him, you erase what he did to a woman. Not just a woman. A woman, who was and is your friend.
Another woman who I had already ceased contact with a year ago, did the same thing, talked about how great he was, she too… knew. I wrote her and reminded her what he had done. That I had helped her in one of her dark times in the business, and why? how could she? She too has a daughter.
No response. And after that, I would also have to sit through the ceremony watching her present to him, knowing full well what he had done…she had worked at the station during it all, now talking about what an upstanding person he was. There was validation in that moment though, when she gave him praise, the room was audibly silent. People knew. People knew what I knew.
So today, I write for women in my shoes. Where the hurt doesn’t stop after the fact. Where sometimes mindlessly people can continue the hurt. I write for people who don’t realize they may have contributed to continuing the hurt. I write so people think about how that is also contributing to a climate where people get away with doing this stuff, and where the people hurt the most back down instead of continued victimization for speaking up.
I write for my daughters. I write for your daughters. I write for you if you’ve faced this too.
The other day my 9 year old daughter had to write a paragraph for school saying what made her feel strong.
She wrote about me. She said I make her feel strong because I am confident and brave.
Here my love, for you. And know that this brave Mama shook so badly I could barely type. But I did. And I will continue to if it helps another soul. And if it helps hold people accountable enough that it will never happen to you. If they see it’s unacceptable enough that no one hits “like” on someone they know did something really bad to another woman.
Women are so powerful. Your words my daughter, reminded me who I am. Who I’ve always been. Who I will continue to be.
For you my girls. All of my girls and women.